Call for Papers – The Multiple Truths of Asylum



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Andrew Mellon Foundation






A symposium to be hosted on the 6 to 7th June 2013 by the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, with a public keynote lecture by Professor Didier Fassin, on the evening of the 5th June.

Institutionalized via the 1951 Geneva Convention and the 1967 New York Protocol, the politics of asylum and the status of refugees are far from corresponding to a uniform frame. Numerous differentiations exist between countries in terms of

procedures to ascertain the legitimacy of the protection sought by people who claim to be victim of, or who fear, persecution because of their “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” – these range from the individual assessment of asylum claims to large-scale forced encampments. This symposium therefore proposes to analyze what can be called the multiple truths of asylum. This expression must be understood in three different ways, which are complementary. First, there is what one considers as the legitimate grounds for seeking asylum and deserving the status of refugee: these grounds have changed over time, with the inclusion of new groups, such as women or homosexuals from certain regions of the world. However, other groups – such as those affected by widespread political or economic turmoil, or environmental change – may be denied legitimacy. Furthermore, asylum claims may differ between countries, certain criteria being more or less relevant depending on where the claim is filed. Second, there is the verification, through various procedures, of the veracity of the narrative of the asylum-seekers: the idea that many immigrants are trying to benefit from the status of refugee has led, in some cases, to increasingly developed bureaucracies and sophisticated investigations,

including the request of medical and psychological certificates. It has also, in other cases, led to attempts to restrict the socio-economic entitlements of asylum seekers, and also to extensive systems of rent-seeking within the asylum system. Third, are truths produced in the social field regarding legitimate claims to refuge and socio-economic entitlements to non-nationals – truths produced through public discourse, the media, and also through violence. A critical question we ask here is: what is the relationship between state and juridical truths about ‘asylum’, and those of host populations, asylum seekers, as well as other nonnational migrants?

We invite papers from different disciplines which will enlighten the diverse dimensions of the truth of asylum in various geographic, national and historical contexts. A selection of papers will developed into a special edition to be edited by Professor Didier Fassin, from the Institute for Advanced Study of Princeton, by Professor Loren Landau, Director of the ACMS, and Dr Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon, researcher at the ACMS.
Please send abstracts of 300 to 500 words, along with a CV, to and by 30 March 2013. Drafts of accepted papers will be expected by the 31 May 2013. Registration for the symposium is free for those with papers accepted, although transportation and accommodation must be covered by the applicant. Partial funding may be available for travel and accommodation for a select candidate from another African country.